Pope Francis has said it clearly, “The Church is a field hospital.”
My kids play those World War II video games, and as you run along trying to kill the Nazis, when you get wounded, if you find a field hospital you can run over and get all your health back and keep fighting.
That’s what the Church is. She’s a mother. If you like she’s a grandmother. I’m thinking of Mother Teresa, hunched over, not much to look at, wearing a moth eaten old cardigan and digging around in the trash for an abandoned infant or picking up a dying wretch from the gutter to take him home.
Once we understand that this is really what the church is, then we will see that the church is never out of date. She is always and everywhere up to date: “ever ancient ever new.”
But we can only see what the Church really is when we see ourselves for what we really are.
As long as we think we’re good folks with good ideas we’re lost. We haven’t got it. We’ve lost the plot.
As long as we think our precious religious ideology (being progressive or traditionalist or compassionate or theologically correct or morally upright or aesthetically pleasing…) is going to change the world and change the church, then we still haven’t understood what it’s all about.
This applies to people in the pew, but it applies to priests and bishops and archbishops too. May the good Lord deliver us from prelates and priests who think they’re right all the time. May the good Lord most of all deliver us from priests and prelates who enforce their good ideas with a self righteous smile or that passive aggressive wounded victim act so beloved of the liberals. May the good Lord also deliver us from those self righteously serious conservatives who are on a crusade to save the church and the world with their own particular mix of right wing politics, conspiracy theories and liturgical paranoia.
As long as we’re caught up in all that other stuff we will be disappointed with the Church. We will be angry with the Church for not being what we wish her to be. We will be spiritually longing that the Church be “up to date” or “back to date” and both attempts will bring disappointment and disaster.
Instead may we all see ourselves as inmates in this asylum, limping to the treatment center which is the Church, hoping to find before its to late a little measure of sanity, a smidgen of hope and a soupçon of joy in this life.
And if we are so graced to find it may we rejoice and take the time and effort to help some other poor soldier to find his way to that field hospital which is our dear Mother Church.